DPHSS: Norovirus – “Stomach Flu” Advisory; No Reports on Guam

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Guam – The Department of Public Health has issued an advisory to residents to be aware of a new strain of norovirus, or stomach flu.

This is a cautionary advisory only. There are NO reports of the virus on Guam at this time.

READ the release from DPHSS below:

Norovirus is the most common cause of acute viral gastroenteritis as well as foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States.  Each year in the U.S norovirus infections results in about 21 million illnesses and contributes to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths.  (Source CDC)

A new strain of norovirus (known as Sydney 2012/ GII.4 Sydney), first detected in Australia in 2012, is rapidly spreading around the world. This new strain is now the leading cause of norovirus outbreaks in the U.S. and cases have been documented in New Zealand, Japan, France, and Great Britain.

Locally on Guam, there are no reports of confirmed norovirus illness so far; however, sporadic “Acute Gastroenteritis” illnesses in households are being reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged clinicians to be on the lookout for a potential rise in norovirus cases in the coming weeks.

Globally, surveillance systems showed an increase in norovirus activity in late 2012 and this increased activity has been associated with the emergence of this new strain.  The emergence of a new strain does not mean that it causes more serious illness but, like other norovirus strains, it can cause violent and projectile vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes fevers, headaches and stomach cramps. Symptoms due to norovirus infection generally last just a few days.

Norovirus is a very contagious virus and, can spread quickly and cause outbreaks in closed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, cruise ships etc.  Anyone can get infected with this virus and get sick, also any one can have norovirus illness many times in their life.  The symptoms can be serious for some people, especially young children and older adults.

Mode of Transmission of Norovirus:

  • You can get the virus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated  surfaces.
  • You can become infected with norovirus by accidentally getting stool or vomit from infected people in  your mouth.  This usually happens by:
    • eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus,
    • touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth, or
    • having contact with someone who is infected with norovirus (for example, caring for or sharing food or eating utensils with someone with norovirus illness).

Symptoms of Norovirus illness:

Common Symptoms:

Other:

 

diarrhea

 

fever

 

vomiting

 

headache

nausea

 

body aches

stomach pain

   

If you have norovirus illness, you can feel extremely ill and throw up or have diarrhea many times a day.

 Laboratory Diagnosis:

 Real-Time PCR Assays

Real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) is the most widely used diagnostic assay for detecting norovirus.

PCR assays can be used to test stool, vomitus, and environmental specimens.

The best way to detect norovirus is in stool specimens collected when a person has acute illness (within 48 to 72 hours after they get symptoms).

  • Other Methods:

Several enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) for detecting norovirus in stool samples are available.  EIAs are currently not sensitive enough (<50%) for diagnosing individual cases.

  • Serum

Serum specimens are not recommended for routine laboratory diagnosis of norovirus.

 Treatment:

  • There is no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection.
  • There is no specific medicine to treat people with norovirus illness, but should prevent dehydration.
  • During the course of the illness patients should try to stay well hydrated by drinking generous amounts of replacement fluids.

 For additional information on norovirus please refer to CDC norovirus web page: http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html

Health care providers should report all possible outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis, including suspected outbreaks of norovirus, to the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS).  For more information you may contact Ms. Josie T. O’Mallan, Bureau of Communicable Disease Control Administrator at 735-7142/7135.